UNICEF helps provide safe spaces for children affected by Kyrgyz violence

UNICEF supplies for refugees in the Feghana Valley where thousands of ethnic Uzbeks have fled across the border from Kyrgyzstan

14 July 2010 – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners have embarked on a project to open safe spaces where children who have suffered during the recent violence in Kyrgyzstan can play together and receive counselling.

“Children need a safe space to pick up threads of their lives,” said Samphe Lhalungpa, Acting Officer-in-Charge for UNICEF Kyrgyzstan.

“This is a place for them to play, draw, sing and dance and be active together. Communities need these spaces to overcome fear and return to some kind of normalcy.”

Women and children made up the majority of the nearly 400,000 people uprooted by the clashes that erupted last month in the towns of Osh and Jalalabad between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks. According to UN agencies, many families have returned to their places of origin with some sheltering in camps or staying with host families since their homes have been destroyed.

UNICEF has opened an operating base in Osh, which is 600 kilometres from the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, and one of the first priorities for the agency is to facilitate psycho-social support for children and help them to learn to play, draw and read again, without fear.

The Ministry of Education and Science has agreed to base 20 child-friendly spaces at schools, and 20 more locations are being identified in communities and camps for displaced people in Osh province.

UNICEF is contributing to these centres by training teachers and psychologists, and helping to set up the rooms. It has already delivered special toys that help a child’s development.

“The centres should help families in the community get their children home and restore a stable life for them,” the agency stated.

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